Picking An Architect – update 1

There are things I want to say about the world. About Trump. About Hillary. About Bernie. About stupid Heathrow Home Office Security procedures. About my lack of dry ice knowledge. There are things. But I haven’t had time to articulate them, so I won’t say them yet.

But I’m overdue for oversharing. So, from the airport lounge in Tokyo waiting on my connecting flight home (yah!), I take a break for the next installment of Picking An Architect.


I had two lovely architect meetings in late May. One with Tim from TE Studios (via phone) and the other with Wynne from Locus Architects (via brewery). It was interesting to see that picking an architect really is like dating. Both had valid approaches but different ways they structure work with the client. They have different styles. They charge differently. But – they provided the same starting advice: without property in hand, everything is hypothetical. So they coached us on the process, offered help to survey potential sites, and were generally helpful and kind.

We did learn a few shocking things –

  1. Our timeline is crap. We were hoping for a 1 year process. For a project as intricate as what we are talking about, they said 2 years is much more likely. And that clock starts when we get a property in hand. I had mixed feelings about this.
    1. Pros: I don’t want to rush it – I want every decision we make to be thought about and assessed and maximized. 24 months feels more comfortable. In addition, that is another year for Dave and I to work the finances for this investment. To figure out how to fund such a thing without creating the proverbial handcuffs-tied-to-the-paycheck situation.
    2. Cons: We live in a one bedroom condo with a baby. In two years, she may have a sibling. That feels long and trying. For the sake of our marriage, we would likely need to move twice and that sucks. But that’s short term.
  2. Urban Development is tough to finance. Imagine for a second that our sustainable house comes in at $500k. But we want to build it near downtown Saint Paul where home values range from $100 – 250k. When we go to get our mortgage approved, there will be hesitation from the bank to fund the project. Their fear is being stuck with a house in a neighborhood where they will struggle to sell. So they will use their algorithms and loan us up to the average value of that neighborhood. That’s not going to be enough… The good news is that based on finding #1, Dave and I have another year to work out money. We also got the names of regional banks that will take bigger risks on things like this (likely because they benefit from redevelopment of neighborhoods like this).


So that’s it – we looked at a lot, but it’s not for us. So now we continue to monitor. There is a home in our neighborhood that is ½ burned down, on a perfect lot, and I can’t tell if it’s occupied. I want to know what’s going on there – it could be perfect. I’ll continue to snoop around…

And we are holding off meeting with Kris and David. I feel we got the info we need to get a lot-in-hand and then can resume architect conversations. So the focus shifts…


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